Arizona’s new immigration law has some flaws but shows the brokenness of the immigration system, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has said. Urging Congress to act, he noted the dangers and wrongs of both illegal immigration and the response to it.
Writing in the May 5 edition of the Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop said Americans have a right to safety and to have solvent public institutions, but that cannot come at the cost of immigrants’ basic human rights.
Discussing the controversy about the Arizona state law, he advised Catholics to listen first to the leaders of the Arizona Catholic community.
“They know the situation there best,” he said, adding that their leadership should “set the tone for our own response.”
“Illegal immigration is wrong and dangerous for everyone involved,” he asserted. There is nothing good about people risking their lives to enter the U.S., and there is nothing good about Americans not knowing who crosses their borders, “especially in an age of terrorism, drugs and organized violent crime.”
There is also nothing good about people “living in the shadows,” or families being separated, or “decent people being deported and having to start their lives all over again, sometimes in a country that they no longer -- or never did -- know.”
Although flawed, Archbishop Chaput continued, the Arizona law unintentionally accomplishes the good of bringing immigration reform and its human issues to the forefront of the national discussion.
Noting issues like deportation of breadwinners, the division of families, and the anxiety of non-citizen children who grew up in the U.S., the archbishop declared:
“Our current immigration system is now obviously broken. Congress needs to act.”
He warned that no “credible” immigration reform will take place if the effort becomes “an exercise in partisan maneuvering.”
“Both of our major political parties got our country into our current immigration mess. Both parties bear responsibility for fixing it. Neither will solve it alone,” he explained.
Archbishop Chaput said that the recent debate over national healthcare and its “deeply flawed” legislation compromised confidence in some key federal lawmakers. In his view, Congress now faces an equally difficult task. “This will require a transparency, patience, spirit of compromise and bipartisanship rarely seen in Washington in the best of seasons,” he said.
If the immigration debate divides along parties or becomes entangled with “very different and unnecessary issues” like same-sex relationships, the archbishop warned, “real people will suffer.”
He encouraged people to remember that America was built by immigrants, who are a “blessing” for American society in its economy, culture and religious and moral life.
“The American Catholic community has a long history of welcoming immigrants and helping them integrate into, and enrich, our nation’s life,” his Denver Catholic Register column finished. “Here in Colorado, the Church will continue that work with all of her energy.”